Completed in time for the start of last season and with a capacity of 41,000, it may not be the most imaginatively named arena in world football, but the Juventus Stadium is a significant weapon in the modern Juve's armoury. Unlike every other major Italian ground, it is owned by the club and not the council, and regularly sold out, ensuring valuable added revenue and a raucous atmosphere they could not rely upon in the cavernous Stadio delle Alpi or the drab Stadio Olimpico di Torino.
From May 2011 to November 2012, Juventus were unbeaten in the Italian top flight, a run encompassing 49 games and last season's title win. During those 18 months, Antonio Conte's side demonstrated an astonishing capacity to recover from seemingly fatal blows, famously fighting back from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 at Napoli's Stadio San Paolo fortress. The sequence was ended, gallingly for the Bianconeri, by their hated rivals Internazionale, who triumphed 3-1 at the Juventus Stadium thanks to a Diego Milito double.
The Italian word for victory, it is also the forename of Conte's daughter. No, really. Strange as it may seem, it does offer us an insight into the man's single-mindedness.
Six years ago the club were stripped of their 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles and demoted to the second tier for their part in the Calciopoli scandal, which unearthed a clandestine network working to secure the appointment of favourable referees for certain matches. Juventus returned at the first time of asking, winning Serie B comfortably, but retained a sense of injustice, so much so that their first post-Calciopoli Scudetto last season was celebrated as their 30th, not 28th, the two stripped titles included. President Andrea Agnelli even threatened to have three stars printed on the team's 2012-13 jersey, but eventually backed down, settling instead for the slogan '30 sul campo' – 30 won on the pitch. "We count our success and it equals 30, but the federation's calculations come to 28," said Agnelli. "As we don't agree, we chose to take the stars away."
More recently, Conte was banned from the touchline and dressing room on matchdays for four months as punishment for failing to report match fixing during his time in charge of Siena. The coach protested his innocence, pointing out he had been charged on the word of a man – former Siena midfielder Filippo Carobbio – who had already pled guilty and was seeking to reduce his own sentence by implicating others. "You miss the emotions of the game, but I have been forced to face this situation and hope that it was at least helpful to build character," stated Conte after his return in Palermo two weeks ago. "The one thing I missed most was the embrace with the players at the end of the game. It is something essential."
Assistants Massimo Carrera and Angelo Alessio deputised for Conte in his absence, with Alessio rather harshly blamed for the surrender of the unbeaten record to Inter and the defeat to Milan three weeks later.
Juventus' first Champions League campaign for three years came perilously close to ending at the group stage. Going into the matchday four meeting with Nordsjaelland they lay third in Group E with just three points. However, the Old Lady dispatched the Danes 4-0, prompted Roberto Di Matteo's sacking with a 3-0 thrashing of tournament holders Chelsea, then defeated Shaktar Donetsk 1-0 in Ukraine to not only qualify, but finish top of a dauntingly difficult section.
A former Juventus midfielder, Conte was by no means a universally popular choice when appointed in May 2011. His Serie A experience amounted to a calamitous three-month tenure at Atalanta. Better known for having undergone a hair transplant than for any managerial nous, there was little to suggest the Lecce native would fare better than Claudio Ranieri, Ciro Ferrara, Alberto Zaccheroni or Gigi Del Neri, the four others who had tried and failed to restore the club to their former glory since promotion from Serie B in 2007.
For him to win the League title, with a Juve squad considered decent at best, would have been a shock. To become the first Scudetto winners to survive a 38-game season unbeaten? Unthinkable. But in Trieste last May, that's precisely what Conte achieved. Renowned for his passion and motivational qualities, the 43-year-old is also a deceptively clever strategist, regularly out-thinking his more experienced counterparts.
For one of European football's powerhouses, Juventus have had a troubled relationship with its grandest prize. They have been champions of Europe only twice, in 1985 and 1996 – the former overshadowed by the Heysel disaster – and lost in the final on five other occasions. Their last participation before this season was in 2009, when a 4-1 loss to Bayern Munich on the final matchday eliminated them at the group stage.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Juventus' success is it came in spite of their lack of a single reliable goalscorer. Conte rotates constantly, forming his attack from any two of Mirko Vucinic, Sebastian Giovinco, Fabio Quagliarella, Alessandro Matri and the on-loan Nicklas Bendtner. Giovinco and Vucinic are the pairing called upon most often, but neither of them are out-and-out strikers. The absence of this elusive 'top player', a phrase originally coined by director general Beppe Marotta in the summer, is a never-ending polemic in the Italian media. It also explains why the Bianconeri are so frequently linked with strikers such as Fernando Llorente, Didier Drogba and even Celtic's Gary Hooper. "We won't sign any 'top player', because we are not in a position to do so," was Conte's response to the speculation on Monday. "Neither is anyone else in Serie A."
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